My advanced class will be working on single-axis turns for the next few weeks: here is a head start on Monday night!
Single-axis turns are turns in which the leader and the follower are (as much as is possible) sharing an axis while spinning on one foot in place, and then exiting.
A single-axis turn can be done:
- in a right or left turn;
- with either the leader's right or left foot;
- and through any step of the follower's turn.
My main teacher for these was Luciana Valle, but I also studied them with Chicho Frumboli and Gustavo Naveira. I was taught them in open embrace, but I prefer to dance as many of them as possible in the interlaced, close embrace that I usually use to dance. Why? Because I find it easier to control the follower when I have a full embrace, rather than just two hands to guide them.
Secrets to make single-axis turns easy
Tips for leaders
- Remember to keep your leg, knee and foot relaxed. This will allow you to land on balance, without knocking the follower out of your way.
- "Pink Panther" timing: da-DUMP! The follower's foot hits the ground, and then you step around/behind a split second after they start the weight transfer. This allows you an escape hatch if the partner lands off balance, so that you can bail on the turn, OR help them regain balance. It also allows you to "ride" the momentum of the follower, instead of working harder ;-)
- Don't go for super-rotation instead of technique: a a half turn is fine (heck, a quarter turn is fine). When you and your partner are aligned correctly, you will find that you turn a lot more, even without much effort.
- There should be a moment at the end of the turn where there is a feeling of suspension before the exit: don't fall into an exit, use that suspension and enjoy it! It's like a wave gathering and then breaking.
- Exit with the follower's easiest exit (usually back or forward) and arrange yourself as needed. If you need to change feet for stability, then do it, but ONLY to exit. For example, on the follower's back cross step version of this turn, I sometimes lead this in parallel, then transfer weight to exit in crossed system.
Tips for followers
- Don't panic.
- Remember to use your body like a spring: all joints are soft and flexible, but the body also stretches on axis so the whole thing doesn't compress.
- If in general you struggle to keep your hips "back" for good alignment, focus on that while spinning to stay on axis.
- Did I mention don't panic?
- Do the best turn you can do, with excellent technique on each step, and you will be on balance, ready for anything. Do NOT try to "help" the leader with the step. Focus on doing the best front, side or back step you can instead.
Using single-axis turns
First, make sure you can do some basic single-axis turns before you string them into combinations:
- left turn, step through follower's open step with left foot (or right).
- left turn, step through follower's front cross step with left foot (or right).
- left turn, step through follower's back cross step with left foot (right is dangerous here).
When those work, try them to the right. For some people, these are almost impossible. For me, the "harder" direction turned out to be easier for me. Try all of them, and see what makes the most sense to you.
I like using boleos and/or drags in combinations with single-axis turns, but I will hold off on making suggestions until we've worked through some of the combinations in class, and then I'll post the ones that folks like the best.